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May 29, 2007 02:12 PM


Anybody eat there yet?

Location is great but hours are NOT. I thought about stopping off for lunch today as it's the only time during the week I'm anywhere near downtown, but balked at the idea of parking without enough time.

There was a really nice article on the place in last week's Chronicle and, from the descriptions of the salads, plus the fact that they buy a lot of their foodstuff from the Farmer's Market downtown, plus their enviro-friendly attitude (compostable plastics, etc) make it sound like an appealing destination for a healthy meal. Just wondering if the salads are as good as advertised.

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  1. I actually walked over there on Thursday after reading the Chronicle article to get a salad to go. A line wraps around the seating area as all salads are made to order in a large mixing bowl and either deposited into a big bowl or to go container. The wait at lunch was about 15 minutes, so you will need a few quarters for the meter. I ordered the avocado BLT salad, one of the Big 12 menu selections (or you can design your own) which started with a large helping of romaine lettuce (they have spinach, mixed greens, romain, cabbage, or the works-a mix of all). Then my salad maker halved and pitted a fresh avocado, slicing the half for my salad. My salad also contained roma tomatoes-fresh and tasty (several other choices, including yellow teardrops available), bacon (in small pieces--would have preferred it in larger pieces and crunchy), grilled chicken (preportioned in a baggie, ok but a little bland on its own), big juicy cucumber chunks, and a sprinkling of cheddar cheese. The dressing tasted like it was made in house (not hidden valley). My salad was 7.99 and filled up a whole foods style to go container--I couldn't finish the whole thing. The next time I will try the grilled shrimp or skirt steak as my "protein." I would recommend it to anyone downtown sick of the WFs salad bar. (is it me, or does everything start to taste the same?)

    1. I was passing through town at 11, and stopped in for an early lunch. The place was empty, and until about 11:30 it remained that way. (Just a tip or those who hate lines.)

      I wanted to try a variety of pretty distinct ingredients, and since the Cobb Salad comes with bleu cheese dressing which could be overpowering, I decided to try the Niçoise Salad. My choice was a poor one. The menu clearly listed the ingredients, and the lack of capers and anchovies (not to mention potatoes) was apparent, but didn't register until I sat down. Also, in a toss-to-order-salad joint, it's a mistake to order a composed salad. I do forgive myself this once for not realizing that they'd toss everything.

      Digging into the salad as served with my eyes wide open, I discarded the Niçoise assumptions that were clearly violated by the ingredient list and method of combination, and hoped for deliciousness nonetheless.

      The salad was OK. The vinaigrette overpowered most of the other flavors, with the only other noticeable flavors coming from the olives and the more bitter greens in the "spring mix". The boiled eggs were diced pretty small, rather than halved or sliced as they usually come, reducing their distinct flavor and texture contribution. The tuna was of the water-packed variety, and remained in such large chunks that it came across as dry and did not absorb other flavors as much as I'd hope. The green beans varied in texture, most good, but a few a bit woody. The cherry tomatoes were a little low in flavor, and certainly did not stand up to the dressing. The olives seemed to be generic sliced, canned, ripe olives: not Niçoise, but what did I expect? The greens, tomatoes, and green beans were clearly fresh.

      The bread that came along with it was a 2x2 inch square of dry whole-wheat roll, with a touch of embedded sun-dried tomato. It was too small in proportion to the salad, but I'm happy not to have had more of this particular bread.

      There are 11 other salads on the menu, in addition to the ability to choose one's own combination of ingredients. One might have better luck with other toppings and dressings. All in all, I'm betting that as long as there is construction going on in the area, there is more deliciousness to be had (by my tastes at least) at the lunch trucks that visit the sites a block away. It might be the best fresh-greens source (without taking the 'dillo down to WF) if one is in the City Hall area.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Knoblauch

        I ate there today for lunch, and there are several problems with Leaf. First off, they do not have enough people working behind the counter. There were only about 5 people in front of us, yet it still took about 15 minutes. Leaf could learn a lesson from Freebirds. If you want a "build your own" restaurant, you have to have more than 3 people making salads. They are going to lose valuable lunch business b/c it takes too long to make a salad.

        Next, there wasn't enough seating. I ended up leaving with my salad. They need to add outdoor seating.

        Lastly, they add WAY too much dressing to their salads. My cobb salad was drenched in blue cheese.

        Overall experience--mediocre. WF is better for salads--the crowds are easier to deal with, and you can usually find seating.

        1. re: AustinChow

          Would the Cobb salad have been good if you'd had the dressing on the side? I can't tell much from your overview about what it was like.

          1. re: MPH

            Yeah, but I was frustrated by the lack of seating in the restaurant. I'm sure the salads are good, but they have to have a Freebirds mentality of service if they are going to survive. Put 12 people behind the counter.

            1. re: AustinChow

              i went there yesterday. walked in and waited at least 15 minutes in line. got the cobb. as they were finishing it up i looked back and saw there were no tables available, and none coming close to being available. so i had them throw it in a to go box. not much choice there. waited a good 10 minutes for them to fix the credit card machine which wouldnt take my debit card, then my credit card. why this tied up both terminals, i'm not sure, but it caused several people to be backed up behind me. it finally goes through and they say "you were 10 seconds from a free salad." ok, maybe should have done that 5 minutes ago but ok.

              took it back to the office. 2 kinds of dressing -- spicy ranch and roasted garlic. both homemade but neither really pleasing -- just personal taste i think. all the veggies were good and very fresh. chicken was kind of bland and a bit overcooked.

              a good concept but for $10, i expect to be able to sit down and eat and not have to get in the car and take it back to my desk and eat it out of a box after waiting 30 minutes to get in and out.

              for the same amount of money i'll take a small soup from the seafood soup/bisque/chowder station, a salad and a piece of fruit at whole foods where i can get in and out efficiently, eat outside on the patio and people watch.

              i think this place will have to make some changes or will be relegated only to people at lunch within very short walking distance.

              1. re: sbhlaw

                I would just keep in mind that they haven't been open all that long, and the Statesman had a recent feature about them. Cut them some slack, check it out again in a couple weeks and see if things have improved.

      2. I ate at Leaf on Friday the 15th, and enjoyed it. I ordered the Margherita on the works ("the works" mix, basil, tomato, mozzarella, pine nuts, and olives) which was very fresh and delicious. The salad is served with a honey-tangerine vinaigrette, which I was unsure about at first (well, unsure about the combo of the salad ingredients and the dressing) but the flavors were a great complement to each other. I did order the dressing on the side, which allowed me to add as much (or as little) as I wanted. I used about half of it.

        I agree with other reviewers that seating is a problem - I got there at 11:45 and no empty tables to be found. My friend and I ordered our salads to go and sat in front of City Hall, which is a great alternative when the weather's nice. Maybe they could include more seating if all seating was long tables, family style? It's not for everyone, but I like sitting next to new people, and I think it would work with the overall atmosphere of the place.

        As far as the menu goes, I think I'll make my own salad next time. There are a lot of yummy options, though I wish that there were more fruit toppings - I think that strawberries are the only option now, and I'd love to see things like grapes and pears or dried cranberries or blueberries.